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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pooling resources

Exhausted, but made a small painting.... Didn't go for a swim this evening because I have to dig out sweaters for my trip to NYC this weekend! Brrrrr.... I love flying and can't wait for the window seat. Hope the skies are clear. Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The slow art approach to art history

I listened to my dad. He brought to my attention the possibility and the power of patience in art study.
The other day he sent me a link to a lecture by Harvard art historian Jennifer Roberts. In this fast paced culture, she argues, teaching the virtue of patience in our curriculum would be doing a big service to our youngsters. They have so much imagery paraded constantly before their eyes... they look yet they don't see what takes a certain visual (and mental) adjustment, only available with some time, to see. She requires her students to look at a work of art- in a museum- for a minimum of three hours. "An excruciatingly long time", she admits... and then she tells us about her own recent experience and how, at 19 minutes, at 45 minutes... the painting opened up new windows and expanded her sensibilities. As Helen Keller said, "it is a terrible thing to see and have no vision".
We don't have 3 hours, or real masterpieces to study. But I thought, what about doing it for one class of 45 minutes... on a screen?
Today my students discussed, analyzed and started to paint Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night picture. I love the quote... but can't remember who said, "the hand teaches the eye to see".
My students were entranced, and they want to continue painting tomorrow. Before I could suspect them of stalling and delaying our fast track through European art history, I saw and heard them exclaim over seeing details such as the church and the village, and the repetitive rolling of the hills. Instead of showing them works to look at, they are seeing this one. They are creating a relationship with the painting.
So we will linger on it another day.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So much paint flying about

Turning trash to treasure is one of the things to do when you are an art teacher. Rarely, I allow myself to use the extra paint in the palettes, and the scrubby unwashed brushes of my students to paint on scraps of paper or cardboard laying about the class. We had just cut "ornate" frames out of cardboard and so the inside sections were ready for the trash. My students were deep in concentration on their artworks. Here is what I saw:

It's not the Mona Lisa, but at least, in a busy day, I am able to push pigment! There are worse jobs. And I have wonderful students!  They were willing, once they caught me, to pose and forgo doing their assignments. Luckily I am fast...both of these took me under 5 minutes.

Students get lessons from a forger

In thirty minutes, my art history students attempted to bang out a self portrait in the style of Vincent van Gogh. Vincent was a daily painter who spend up to and hardly more than 6 hours painting a portrait of himself. Watching a utube video of a master forger who spent time in jail- the students tried to follow his prompts and add the energy and speed to their renditions. Though half the class freaked at the thought of actually painting, they seemed to have fun at it. I think tomorrow I will let them do a little more on their surfaces.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pool in evening light

It's getting dark so early now.
I don't think it will be helped next week when we fall back for daylight savings. What is the rational for that these days? It's dark when I go to work, and dark soon after. What does changing the clock really change? When did we start tinkering with this? Is it the same in France? I'm too tired to look it up.
Meanwhile the purple skies are due to the lights of the city, the low clouds, and my weary eyesight.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Shades of gray against the community pool

It's always a Sunday when I can focus on tending my small garden of plants on the balcony overlooking the pool. I run my hands through the foliage, trim a little here and a little there, water, and sweep up the dirt dusting around them. I look for lizards and snails, and any possible culprit in the weekly spray of dirt on the tiles. Could it be just the wind? I spy an Asian woman across the way doing the same thing on her balcony. She never seems to look up my way, so we have never acknowledged each other. But I feel like the sweeping is a communal act. We are each making a willful controlling gesture for the beautification of our common environment.
Down the street a small altar has been set up to honor the two pedestrians killed a week ago. My sweeping seems like a small random act when thinking of the lives of others, neighbors in our community, who are violently removed from our midst. But... in my small realm, with a broom or a paintbrush, I choose to honor them. I didn't know them, but I honor them with prayer and intentional acts of beauty. Painting is an act of devotion.
This painting started as a study of negative space. Where do my possessions (the plants) touch the commons (air)? I tried to render the plants by drawing the pool area around them. Then I continued drawing...the floor tiles, the texture of the leaves, the shadows on the pots... until I filled in the plants in with shade and line. Maybe I went too far.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

wandering in watercolor

So many things vie for my attention this morning... the foliage bristles with activity, and, seeing both berries and flowers and dead branches, I realize I haven't yet fathomed the how the seasons flow in the south. My assorted neighbors bump into me in the laundry room and along the communal paths, and, like the windows across the way from my view, they avoid all eye contact. Clouds skitter and tumble overhead, together, to the east, turning both yellow and purple, and making me wonder what is going on over the everglades. Used to be, I spent this time, these Saturday mornings, on the road cutting through storms on my way to St. Pete. But right now, right here, it is sunny. A few residents tip toe quietly around the pool. Someone turns on music in a nearby apartment. My focus comes back to the pool almost too late for it to be included in the composition of this watercolor postcard.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pool Postcard for Snowbirds

It's near the end of October- which means many things if you live in Miami. There is STILL a week of music in the air with the Frost sponsored events at the University of Miami. You may have missed the Chinese and the Caribbean festivals and the Coconut Grovetoberfest, but, at the end of the month, all those poor heavily costumed sign-holding people along US 1 in front of pop-up Halloween stores can come back inside! The muggy weather is breaking not a moment too soon. Clouds are clearing... Could it be the end of hurricane season and the beginning of the bird migration? The big black vultures are already filling a path across the skies. We are entering a moment of suspension. Artists, museums and curators are closing their doors, (in order to fling them open the first week of December, coinciding with Party Miami Basel). I tried scheduling a class field trip to a museum or a collection and have found most every art institution between Homestead and Jupiter are closed ALL November in order to install their December party face. Crazy but true. So, there's the pool...It beckons and it's always open. Watercolor on paper.

TGIFF (Thank goodness for Friday flowers)

It is "homecoming week" at school so, after a week of crazy pep rallies and shortened classes and costume changes, we arrive at Friday: the football game and the dance. It's been hard to keep the focus on art making in class. I nearly gave up today. And then some of my students surprised me.
One of my advisees, the sweetest guy, gave me a rose. He had a dozen he was delivering one by one to his friends. Thoughtful of him. It was so beautiful I painted it during my lunch period so I could give something back to him. Hope every one is safe this weekend.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A butterfly in Miami tonight

Don't think I will get to paint today because I am going straight from work to a Billy Collins Poetry Reading. It's one of Miami's little gifts, bringing in the talent of Mr. Collins, to a theater for free. This two time Poet Laureate  makes you cry, laugh, and wonder about more things than you ever thought about. I am thrilled to spend an evening with him. Listening to poetry is sort of like holding onto a butterfly. You can't clench it tight or (like in the classrooms back in the day where we analyzed it to bits) you will kill it. I am going tonight with open palms/ open mind.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Trunk with super hero capes is missing

It almost breaks my heart that, on a day that the school attire is to be "super hero" themed, I can't find my cape. We used to have a trunk with tons--- assorted lengths and materials. Some were silky and shiny and others more fuzzy and felty. Most were black, but a few were red, and there was even, if I recall correctly, a purple one. I took it for granted that a cape was all I would need and that I had one at hand.
Then, in the morning I realized the trunk with the capes is NOT in Miami, it is in NY! It's not here! It is not here. My children, who the trunk really belonged to, are not here either. They have gone out the door to do their super hero work in the real world.

The best I can do is pose in my classroom door

I painted this small watercolor referencing a photo of the landscape over Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where my youngest superhero now studies.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Working for my salary

I raised the bar so high for the kids, I am exhausted. In just one day I pushed five classes, and an advisory, on separate creative missions. I had faculty pose, I had easels set up in the mango grove, I had drawing boards in the garden, I had senior students doing self portraits, and advisory decorating my class door... I can hardly walk, talk or think anymore today!
Did two sample pieces of my own as well....This painting I did as a quick sketch of them in the butterfly garden. Try to emphasize mood with light and dark.
This painting I did in a 25 minute demo of how to map in the head and features. Push, push, push, my seniors to quit moaning, let go the fear, and get it down on canvas

 And here we go... from 8 am to 4pm!!!! when is rained we painted the central courtyard from under awnings.

It is pretty amazing I get paid for this!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pain, Poetry and imbalance on Miami Highway

Balance...How quickly it can go. Each day, each minute, can be different.
This is painted on plaster on scrap of cardboard. It is a medium I find intriguing with all the exposure I get these days to intersection signage. All along the Dixie Highway (route 1) I come across stories printed in black ink on cardboard. "Hungry. Out of work. Please help", "God bless you Please feed me","Trying to save for my Ferrari", "Just had a baby, help me keep her. No job no money." "I'm a Vet with cancer". The homeless raise up these signs in hopes to tug at heartstrings and shake a few dollars out of each car. I don't always have change, and as I sit at a light in the car- windows up and a.c. on- I feel forced to be audience to their theater. Drama. It's out on the streets and everywhere.
What if I joined them? Held up my signs... "need a pedicure", "so tired...", "can you hear me now", "who do I blame?" I have made a stack of them:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Yoga at the Coral Reef Park

Influenced by both Richter and Seurat and a day of painting at the studio. I love pushing around pigment like both of those artists do and did. An interesting movie, if you like to watch paint be slowly spread across a surface, (I actually fell asleep twice), is 97 minutes of the German artist Gerhard Richter Painting. He is my dad's age and has a very young wife and toddler who both make cameo appearances... all that aside, just watching makes you want to paint.
In my painting classes this week, as we begin color theory, I showed them a movie about Seurat from a series called The Secret Lives of Masterpieces. Art history today takes in a lot wider viewpoints that the art history I was taught in school. There is the feminist analysis and the global revision of what influenced the artists subject matter and style. Apparently the Ile de la Grande Jatte, the island park on the Parisian Seine, was a notorious place for prostitutes to advertize their wares. And Seurat lines up his figures in either a frontal or side profile just like the Egyptian sculptures that would have been on view at the Louvre right then! So he must have been using the ancient construct of social storytelling to tell the story of a young male in Paris. For whatever reason- and not the technique of the painting- several impressionists refused to let their work hang next to his because they found it offensive! He had to hang it alone in it's own room.

Hopefully my yoga painting won't be so offensive! I'm just illustrating a personal narrative of a morning gathering through an exuberant handling of liquid paint. Have a great day!!!!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A slave to discipline

Having been on the computer and effectively "killing hours" this morning, it is a bit ironic I even attempt to bring up the topic of "discipline". Forgive me, I have given it a lot of thought. . .
So... what if I am not making "great art"? Does that really matter as much as I think? Is the product the validation? Or is it the process? I love the discipline of doing it every day (or trying to). I love setting myself deadlines and routines. Last July I wrote everyday on a book idea and it was bliss! The fact that the book has sat in a box untouched or edited since August doesn't bother me. I really like checking into my blog everyday... picking a topic and writing even a few sentences on it feels good. It marks time. It puts out there what is in there; in my own head.
I have other routines as well... for years I have tried to write 8-10 letters a week, meditate 10-20 minutes a day, do yoga and take walks, read 2 books a month, sit still in the evenings, pray morning noon and night, and pay attention to Michael daily.
I have a deep down fear that I am, at my core, truly lazy... that I could lay about, eat potato chips, get massages and pedicures and be waited upon non-stop without a qualm. I could forget about everything miraculous and marvelous with the world.
So I am going to try again, full moon to full moon, the daily painting discipline. Starting today!

The above is a class demo- a fresco, painted on panel. At one point the plaster dried too fast and I had to chisel it off and add a fresh coat so the surface is a bit uneven. I have a total appreciation for the master artists who came before... the discipline they must have had!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

full moon to full moon

So here we are at the next full moon since I re-started blogging. Though I say I am not sure what I expected, I feel pretty crummy (so I do know what I expected!). I am slightly dissapointed in myself. Many days these last four weeks I couldn't paint. And much of what I painted was "painting lite". I guess I thought I'd be painting large paintings to make a difference, give me a clue, channel God and a message, or, at least, light a fire in a corner of a world. The reality is much more mundane; much more minor keyed. I've maybe painted about 20 little doodles- I say "about" number because many paintings I did in my classes as a demo and never photographed, or I threw in the mail to my sons or friends. Busy busy busy.
Just as I feel like a loser, I take a moment to encourage a friend to celebrate the way she got close to a goal. I tell her it is in trying we find ourselves. Perfection is elusive, but the present moment is the moment, the gift... I should treat myself with the same kindness.
Here are pictures of three murals I worked on at a local yoga studio, the Yoga Warrior.

 The Sanskrit "Om" and the yoga warrior in the waves I painted back in June

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

props and excuses

These days with the student theater, the student art contests, and the student narratives to write, I have no time to paint. this is todays project- shields and trees for the Beast's castle and forest. Just showing up!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Palm Beach in and out of waters

Saturday night we ate outside, at a 92 year old restaurant called Testa's, with a table of 15 relatives. Cousins and kids all vied to tell the latest story. My uncle (Super Jack) sat at the head of the table and smiled softly at all of us. When I spoke to him, squatting by his side and his good ear, his eyes teared up in pure joy to hear how happy and healthy my family is. It was a loud event, followed by a perfect day spent on the sand. Michael survived swimming with the bait fish (something we are told you are never ever to do), and I enjoyed his company in a leisurely way. I think reading the New York Sunday Times together, no phone or computer near by, is luxury.
Bonnie and Troy had a perfect wedding and a wonderful band. I am only now recovering from all the dancing and late hours.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lessons seen in the garden

In a perfectly synchronized moment the weather became less humid and I remembered that the school had a butterfly garden. They call it the 'meditation garden". Impulsively, I shooed my arriving students out the door and took them to draw plants... and, being a lovely day with no complaints from my charges, I was able to do a drawing myself.  I notice the milk weed are different down here than up north- the leaves are the same but the light purple flowers are larger and less delicate and numerous. They are downright crazy exaggerated in their display. The flowers reminded me of women parading on Lincoln Road. I didn't paint them---just concentrating instead on a caterpillar and a monarch. So many of my students are poised in between these two natural stages of life.
I love working with teenagers because of the potential and their inability to really see too far (like a caterpillar on a short stalk). I feel like a cheerleader telling them how soon, soon enough, they themselves will be flying like the insects around them. They, in turn, grimace back at me.

Once back in the classroom I assigned certain students to make paint using egg yolks, powdered pigments and distilled water. In the "old days" artists had assistants to do that. The kids "pounced" their drawings onto panels and used the egg tempera to paint their images. Here is mine. Egg tempera on paper.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

have you ever wondered how to draw glass?

Michael came into class on Monday and demonstrated his skill and shared tips, tricks and insights into the mind of an artist. The students in my portfolio class loved it. They have been working on their own rendition of glass for the last two days. Here is where nine of them are at. I am so grateful to Michael.